Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Can we visualise Big Data?

EMC hopes so. In "The Human Face of Big Data", a photo journalism project it is sponsoring, it is asking 100 of the world's leading photographers, in 30 countries to visually document the collection and use of data.
Working with photographer Rick Smolan, and his company Against All Odds Productions. The objective is to create a coffee table book and iPad app showing the best of the photographs, using the images to demystify the term that seems to have N+1 definitions for the N commentators writing about it. EMC is hoping that the book, to be published in the autumn will be a national "best seller" and is also intending to distribute copes to 'influencers'.
Of course EMC as a storage provider has a vested interest in Big Data, both on premise and in the cloud as a service. The company which recently announced $5.31bn revenues for the second quarter of 2012 makes a lot of cash from storage and with, most notably the Greenplum database, is aiming to offer organisations on premise and/or cloud solutions to meet Big Data needs. 
Illustration of Big Data by those of us in the the analyst community trying to communicate the issue to IT decision makers has always been an issue. We have reached for images of overloaded donkey carts and pictures of people running from tsunami waves. But whilst these raise wry smiles from an audience, they do not in my opinion convey the enormity (pun intended) of the subject, its challenges and opportunities for CIOs and other decision makers.
A long time ago, when I was an IT Manager in the UK NHS, I almost had sleepless nights wondering what I would do when our storage requirements reached 1 terabyte. Lately I have been known to show a photo of the 1000+ DVD collection we have at home, (don't ask) organised by genre/series or artist - that is 5 terabytes 'under management'. I wish the project well.
As a footnote I would (tongue in cheek) like to nominate this Dilbert cartoon suggested by @TonyBaer.

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